Misunderstood by many and admired by others, Erislandy Lara is the last Cuban champion left.
But his style awakens conflicting passions, some say that instead of boxing he runs, others highlight his technical virtues as unique.
But Lara always or almost always wins. Unlike others though, he wins by any means — knockout or by simply hitting with his surgical and accurate jab. He lives outside the discussions around him, resides in another world, breathes another air.
“No one understands boxing anymore, and everyone wants to see a street fight,” said Lara, the WBA light middleweight champion. “It’s not about taking punches for the desire to take punches, but to use the head and feet. Very few people admire the beauty of good boxing. That is the reality of today.”
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What kind of fight will we see Saturday when Lara and Jarrett Hurd, the IBF light middleweight champion, fight to unify two divisions at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas? We will see, but Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) has promised that his right hand will be like a hammer that will rip apart his rival.
Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) unwittingly became a boxer. He first passion was baseball, but a fight with another boy took him out of the national team. Once got himself into a ring, Lara realized he could use his fists and speed to confuse his opponent.
Still, Lara has not forgotten the sacrifices he made. The strenuous training, the unforgettable victory against Demetrius Andrade. And, above all, the terrible incident of his failed escape attempt with Guillermo Rigondeux during the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.
After several days of not being able to escape, and realizing that they had left their passports, they decided to surrender to the Brazilian authorities who sent them back to Cuba.
“We had no other recourse but to return, I had a newborn child in Havana and after a month without seeing the light of hope we decided to turn ourselves in,” recalled Lara, 34. “They picked us up at the airport and took us escorted, because they said the people wanted to retaliate against us, they forbade me to visit any gym, they said it was a bad influence on children, they closed all the doors on me.”
In a chapter that he prefers to forget, Lara escaped in 2008 by sea to Mexico. From there, he flew to Hamburg, Germany, where he began a professional career that today is at an all time high.
Unlike other compatriots of his, he surrounded himself with a group of loyal friends, looked for representatives who watch over his rights and made a difficult decision and which he does not regret: he moved from Miami.